Sunday 29 December 2013

Dales at Christmas , chancing it!"

Christmas for me is never a good time of the year. This year the urge to get away was strong. Despite advance booking, fares took their usual Christmas hike. Train companies almost double their normal fares, a rip off. The other problem of course is not knowing in advance what the weather is going to be doing. Early indications where for rain, strong winds and storms! Windy conditions always give me a sense of trepidation.
Due to travel early on the Monday, my first inclination was to roll over and go back to sleep. my mojo was on no go! However, I finally stirred myself and  travelling by train and bus arrived early afternoon in Grassington. The weather was wet and windy. A bite to eat, fought off the temptation to go for B&;B and finally headed out.Finding a spot out of the worst of the weather somewhere on Lea Green I snugged the tent down for the night.

By morning the worst of the wind had died down. However, ominous dark clouds where rapidly building up. A flurry of sleet and then a heavy shower of snow. My intention had been to head up the track marked as the  Bycliffe Road, over Sandy Gate and down toward Scar House Reservoir.
However, as I climbed higher toward Sandy Gate the snow showers where becoming more prolonged and the wind was rising. Despite it being still early I decided it would not be wise to press on. My main concern was the forecast for more bad weather during the week. My plan had been for a fairly high level route. Not a good idea in adverse weather. Thus I back tracked to the remains of an old sheep pen.The ground was saturated and a tad muddy. There was a better pitch close by but exposed to the now, strong winds.

Things had calmed down by morning and it had become mlider. The downside was that there was heavy hill fog.

 If there is one thing that gives me the heeby jeebies it is mud. The ground sheet was plastered in it and I wasted precious time sluicing the muck off. This meant a late start. After a perusal of the map over supper, I had devised a plan B.
Heading back down and in to some lovely clear weather, I headed over toward Kettlewell. Walking up the road toward the village, I met a gent out walking his dog. As is my want. I gave him a smile and said 'good morning'. "It's afternoon now!", was the curt reply. Oh dear, his problem, not mine?
Skirting the village, I made my way up the hill and through Knipe Wood. Coming down the hill toward Hawkswick  was unpleasant. Cattle had churned the ground in to a quagmire. A flooded lane led me over  in the direction of Arncliffe Cote. Reluctant to camp too high I pitched on the hill not far from the farm.
Five a.m., dueling cockerels from the farm below, trying to out crow each other. Owls calling to one another across the valley. The tent, wet from mt the previous day, had frozen overnight and then thawed in the early hours. It was streaming wet, horrible!
The five day weather forecast had predicted bad storms for Friday. Not wanting to have to do too much if the weather turned nasty, it looked as if the Thursday was going to be a long day The first half of my intended route looked alright, it was the second half that concerned me.
Anxious to put an early start in, I was packed up and underway not long after daybreak. The sodden tent adding significant weight to the rucksack. Another cause for concern was the weather. Thick hill fog blanketed the fells and grew denser as I climbed higher. My route was up and over High Lineseed Head and down to Malham Tarn. The higher ground was snow covered; a monochrome world of grey and white. The need for constant navigation slowed things down. The compass kept close to hand. Droplets of ice formed on stray tendrils of my hair. Stopping for a quick break, noticing my damp rucksack was now beginning to freeze. The Gordale beck had morphed itself in to a wide lake, very difficult to get through.
A couple of parties of guided walkers by Malham Tarn. 'Yay'! they looked almost as mud splattered as me!, Fantastic, I was not alone in my scruffiness!!
Stopping for a nibble and drink at the tarn, I studied  the map with a certain degree of apprehension. If memory served me right , Fountains Fell could be difficult in bad conditions. Well, there was nowt to do but to gird up ones loins and go for it. Following the Pennine Way over to Tenant Gill it was then uphill once more.It did not take long to reach the snow level and it was deeper too. Oh my, the climb seemed to  go on for ever, it was wearisome. Being cocooned in thick greyness, the grey clag surrounding everything like damp cotton wool, was unpleasant.
Unfortunately the descent was even worse. Thick patches of drifted snow, bare  rock that was greasy and treacherous. Lower down the ground ran with water, slick, slippery mud and bog had me skittering every which way, poles flailing to keep upright.
What followed next was uncomprehensible, a mental aberration? Certainly it made no sense. Standing by the cattle grid, aware I had only half an hour or so of daylight left;my map is (was!) a double sided affair. Trying to turn the map over to get get the side\I needed, with showers of hail and sleet rattling off my waterproofs, I lost it. Total insanity, I set off down the road and route marched by road to Horton, ( In Ribblesdale) Madness, I was only a few miles from the village.Sticking with the Pennine Way, I would have been fine. Also, I have done that route before.
Booked in to one of the pubs which had a bunk room. Basic and cheap, which was fine by me. A bit to eat and a collapse in to the sleeping bag.

During the night I woke to hear the roar of the rising wind. Friday morning saw me heading in to the cafe for a breakfast of a bacon butty and mug of tea. The folk there warned me the forecast was dire with wind speeds hitting eighty miles an hour, impressive?
A quick study of the map and a low level, short route over to Ribblehead was worked out. Took the road up to High Birkwith and then over God's Bridge, Nethies Lodge and on to Ribblehead. The wind was certainly awesome. At times it was difficult to make headway and I got slammed about a bit. However, it was bad, but not that bad. Being in no rush I was content to just to move slowly along and let it all happen. Going with it, not fighting the elements as it where.
Originally I had looked at booking in to the pub bunkhouse. However, the proprietor had made a generous offer of B&B and evening meal at a greatly reduced rate. It was my special treat.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Dales walkabout

Well, apart from a few nights fixed camp with the Pieman (Mike) I have done no serious backpacking for a long period of time. Determined to get some form of a trip away, maps where perused and more importantly, train fares where taken in to consideration.
With train tickets purchased and a rough outline of a trip planned, packing began Winter camping can bring its own rewards, cold crisp days with amazing clarity, awesome sunsets and sunrises, tinging frost or snow covered ground in shades of pink and deeper hues. The other side of the coin is that it can mean rough and unpredictable weather.  One other down side is that it means more weight in the backpack. My slightly weightier tent comes in at roughly a kilo. However, I tend to use heavier pegs in the winter months, for which I was extremely grateful. Also a down gilet was added. This is very handy in the tent at night and can double as an extra layer in the sleeping if the temperature drops way down. Also packed are a pair of thermal bottoms to be used as pyjamas. Food is more essential in winter too. This time around I was carrying five days of supplies, some two kilos worth, roughly just over five pounds.
Early Monday afternoon saw me arriving in Skipton. On the map it looked a tad complicated to get across to Embsay This was the case. Heading up Skipton high street, I asked directions. Finally a gent gave me clear and precise directions. 'Up to the castle, turn right and follow the road to the end and turn left and it was on my right'. Running on auto pilot I breezed past a sign for Embsay station. It took another hundred yards before a light bulb went off. The station was on the edge of the village. A check of the map and a bit of backtracking and I was heading for the illusive village. Why was it not sign posted? Once in the village it was fairly straightforward to aim for the reservoir. Obviously a popular area for dog walkers  A good path led onwards and upwards toward the trig point above Crookrise crag. All the way up I had been on the lookout for a place to camp.With the light fading I found a spot right by the trig point, almost on the path itself. It would suffice for the night. Water was a bit of an issue but I found a trickle.

Tuesday morning was dull and grey with mist and low cloud. Not cold though. My original plan had been to head across the moor and on to Grassington, that was that plan I stuck to. Following the path around to Waterfall Gill Beck offered some pleasant walking. A steepish climb out of the beck and it was on to the  bridleway leading upward from Bark brow.

It was then pleasant walking on a succession of tracks and bridleways over to Grassington.There is a delightful camping spot by Eller Beck, noted for another possible time? Grassington appears to be a nice place and I regrvetted not having more time to have a look around. As it was, a quick cup of  coffee and a slice of cake had to do. While having my coffee I got the folk running the cafe to fill my two litre water bladder. The way on was limestone country and that meant no water. A long steady uphill plod out of town and again at last light I found a spot to camp by some limestone pavement.

A shower of rain during the night and then a drop in temperature meant a frozen tent in the morning. It is an excellent walk over to Kettlewell. Open, rolling county side with outcrops of limestone pavement, superb views all around.

There is a lot of history in the region as well. Ancient field systems, settlements,hut circles, lime kilns and so forth.Well worth a visit.

Reaching Kettlewell I was pleased to find that the village shop did a range of snacks and sandwiches. A cheese sandwich with pickle seemed a good proposition. Having a reflux problem means drinking lots of fluid with bread and the such. Thus a bottle of soft drink and a 'just in case' bar of chocolate was added..The sandwich was in fact a humongous bap, filled with generous amounts of the best wensleydale cheese. 'By 'ecky thump, it where reet good too'! My route was now up the Top Mere Road, heading for Tor Dike and on to Buckton Pike on Thursday morning. Oh my, the initial pull out of the village was steep. It was just as well there where excellent views all around which demanded a stop to view!
Reaching higher ground it was noticeable that the wind was rising. By Cam Head I was growing uneasy. The five day forecast had not mentioned any really bad weather. However, the wind was gaining in strength and the sky was taking on a purple plum, bruised hue.Wary of camping to high without any form of shelter, I headed back a short way to some sheep pens. Unfortunately they where gravelled over. Casting about a found a spot fairly close to a wall. Not as close as I would have preferred but offering a degree of protection..

The fateful camp spot.

By early evening the wind was quite strong. A check of the tent pegs ensured they where rammed in tight. By late evening  it was obvious a storm was brewing. Freezing rain, hail, sleet and snow where hammering the tent. Around midnight, another check of the tent pegs. By now the wind was roaring and the tent was shuddering under the onslaught. Sleep was out of the question. By three a.m. I was packed up, fully dressed and prepared to bail out at any moment. The wind was a howling roar. Watching the tent poles waying back and forward was scary. In some ways I had fatalistically resigned myself to the tent tearing itself apart at any moment. It was getting darned scary. Perversely I was trying to hang on until the first grey light of early morning. It being easier to bail out with a modcum of daylight than by headtorch. By seven a.m. I dived out of the tent in to a roaring maelstrom. Driving sleet, freezing rain and hail stung any exposed flesh. Hoping I did not lose the rucksack, I stuck it over by the wall and then tackled the tent. Whipping out the pole I promptly dived on the tent to hold it until I could get the tent pegs out. If the wind had caught the tent I would never have been able to hold it. With tent unceremoniously bundled in to the rucksack, I now had to try and get down to lower ground.
Hugging the wall I made my way down to a field gate. The force of wind meant I was unable to open it.With a bit of struggle I got one leg over the top rail.and then the wind caught me. Feeling myself falling backward, I grabbed on to a fence post, clinging on to the post for all I was worth, I knew that if I toppled backwards I would inevitably suffer injuries, most likely serious. Finally, after a struggle, I managed to topple myself forward off the gate. The wind was on my right and it was impossible to walk forward. Constantly I was slammed sideways, skittering off to one side and then having to crab sideways back on course. Thus in a drunken zigzag. I staggered back down the hill back to Kettlewell.  Several times I went down and it hurt too. Muttering unladylike utterances, I would get back on hands and knees and stagger to my feet. By the time I reached the village I think I was shell shocked. A tile crashing on to the road not far from me hardly caused me to flinch. Wheelie bins where being scattered in all directions, flower pots where where being dashed from walls and window ledges. Staggering in to the shop, dripping water everywhere, I stuttered an apology to the shop keeper. He was quite ok about it though. Clutching another massive cheese butty and a bottle of orange juice, I huddled in the village bus shelter for a spot of breakfast. A bang and a crash and what may have been a bit of shed went skating down the road, followed shortly afterward by an upturned bin.
My aim now was to follow the Dales Way up to Buckden. Apart from the extreme weather, there was now another hazard, floods. The becks had turned in to raging torrents Low level fields where turning in to lakes. One beck I came to meant going in half way up to my knees, not pleasant. A second beck proved a lot more difficult. There was a bridge, now a semi submerged island in a foaming torrent. Water, piling up behind it had divided in to two new channels Casting about, there was no where other safe place to cross. Tentatively I eased in to the water. The current was quite strong and I made full use of my poles to maintain balance. By the time I made the bridge I was knee deep. The second channel was slightly easier. It was difficult diverting around flooded fields and seeing I was now wet from the knees down, it was just as easy to paddle on through.
Close to Buckden, the river Wharfe had totally burst its banks. River and path where as one and water was now spreading across adjoining meadows. The force of the wind was lifting water from the surface of the river, driving it along like pale smoke. Amazingly the driving rain and hail eased off as I came to Buckden bridge.

.The still rising river Wharfe.

From Buckden the going underfoot became easier. Noticing a bunk barn at Grange farm, I paused to study their tariff..Very upmarket, all mod cons supplied,some £500:50 per week for groups.Tempting but not  by much, I pressed on. Reaching Hubberholme, I swear I could smell coffee coming from the pub. Stopping for coffee and a bite of grub was oh so tempting. But having to head back out afterward would  have been difficult. It was best to press on. Most of the way up to Yockenthwaite was sheltered out of the worst of the weather. By now the storm had given way to vicious squalls, driving hard down the dale. From Yockenthwaite though it was open ground, exposed to the full force of the driving wind. A grey wall of sleet and hail could be seen hurtling towards one. Standing face on to it was impossible. The only thing that could be done was to turn around with my back to the onslaught, lean heavily on the poles and submit to the blast. As one squall advanced I dived for a drystonewall. Several sheep where already hunkered down there. They sprang to their feet, paused to stare at me with those staring, glassy eyes, their jaws chewing in that strange nervous manner that sheep do. Deciding I was the lesser of two evils they hunkered down again.
By Deepdale Bridge I was in much need of somewhere to camp. I was wearied and running on empty. It was tempting to knock on the door of Newhouse cottage, but I hesitated. Asking a farmer for somewhere to camp was one thing but this place seemed to be a holiday let sort of place.  Gow Side House stood higher  up the hill. Heading up to it I noticed there was no track; the only access was  across a muddy field. The place appeared deserted but I still knocked, no response, the building was closed up with no sign of recent activity. Behind the building was an enclosed paddock with overgrown decaying vegetation and several trees. A place close to a moss covered wall offered a possible spot for the tent. Another roaring squall and with the light fast fading, it was an easy decision, I would risk it. My trousers legs where much drier but still damp, but my feet where numb with cold  and I was getting shivery. Tent up, in to sleeping bag, stove on, hot soup followed by hot chocolate.

My intention had been to be away early. However, there was a problem. My boots had frozen solid overnight and I had to unpack the stove to thaw them out.My poor, arthritic feet do not like frozen boots! The morning was colder but it was dry and still. With dry socks on and waterproof booties to keep the feet dry,  things where more comfortable. On to the hamlet of Beckermonds and then a road plod on to Oughtershaw, another remote hamlet, at one time it there had been a chapel there. Spoke to a chap that was out taking  readings from electronic gauges that measure the rise,fall and flow rate of the rivers. Some rivers in the region  had risen to almost a metre during the storm, awesome!
Swarthgill surprised me, it was no ordinary farm building. There where a few buildings but the main one one was more in keeping with a large manor house. The way on to Cam Houses led through saturated, semi frozen bog. None too pleasant but it did not take too long to get through. Forestry work was in progress by Cam Pasture and the Dales Way had been slightly diverted. The snag was the forestry track that the path should cross had been had been heavily rebuilt. Unable to see the way ahead up the hill to the Pennine Way, I stuck with the forestry road which eventually led me up the hill and on to the original track. Rather than stay with the Dales Way I continued on down to Ling Gill Bridge. There are plenty of spots there suitable for a wild camp. It was early but enough was enough and I was still wearied from yesterday,s tussle.

Friday night had been blustery with sleety showers but by morning it was just dull and grey and a wee bit damp. It was time to be heading out and I was away quite early, heading for Horton, (in Ribblesdale). Foregoing breakfast and making do with just a cuppa, I was looking forward to a breakfast in the Pen Y Ghent cafe. Despite being somewhat sore and tired I still managed to tap out a steady pace. Imagine my disappointment when I met a lady heading up the hill with her dog who informed me the cafe was closed until after Christmas.

In the end I opted for a sandwich in the local hotel. Pricey, also, there where a group of folks exercising rights to run beagle hounds frequenting the place. Country tweeds where de rigeur, gents with polished boots and immaculate gaiters, whereas I was mud spattered, my kit worn and mucky, I felt uncomfortable in their presence. Theirs was another world, somewhat incomprehensible to mine.
It was good to be away, the week was harder than intended but sometimes that happens. Now then, my next trip? . 

Saturday 16 November 2013

Mallwyd interlude

A couple of minor ops, a battery of hospital checks and so forth has meant that  all activity on the walking front had been severely curtailed. In fact it is more than two months. My last trip cancelled at the very last moment due to health problems.
Mike, (northern pies) suggested a few days in Wales. He knew of a nice campsite, that, although officially closed, would allow us to camp. Thus it was that  I staggered off the train at Welshpool with a heavy rucksack to be collected by Mike and Bruno, (superdawg). Monday afternoon was surprisingly mild, it felt good to be out once more.Tents where soon up and a brew on.

 Tuesday saw us heading up a delightful valley for a short walk. The rich, autumnal colours where quite beautiful.

We arrived back at the camp site early and had a lazy afternoon.
Wednesday morning was quite chilly. Mike had an idea for a walk. Thus we headed over to Dollgellau and the Precipice Walk. In fact it was a delightful stroll.

After our morning stroll we headed over to Barmouth  for an amble along the beach. Bruno was highly delighted at this and spent much time chasing his new found ball.

Wednesday night saw a change in the weather with strong winds and heavy rain. The tent was well anchored and I was snug.Unfortunately Mike's tent leaked which was not good. This meant we where heading for Welshpool earlier than intended. However, as a compensation, we indulged in an enormous full english breakfast. A good few days away.

Tuesday 20 August 2013


There are times when I loath being stuck in the city. A city person I am not. A bothy on the hill would be better. A hospital appointment next week means me being hooked up to a mobile E.C.G. monitor for twenty four hours!!
Prowling restlessly around the flat, I am sorting gear. With winter not being too far away I need to start assessing my winter stuff. The larger tent is taken down from the cupboard and checked over. It is good to go and probably will be used on the next trip. My sleeping bag needs replacing or cleaned and upgraded. Darned expensive either way. A major outlay for me.
The group Genticorum is playing the background. Oh my, they are not good for one, such joyful, lively music, they would have one dancing around the kitchen table. Feet begin to twitch and there is an urge to dance.
On the draining board is one of my stoves. A heavier liquid fuel beasty. Not so good for backpacking but ideal for a fixed winter camp. It certainly chucks out an impressive amount of heat.
The tent I am sorting out is a single, upright pole jobby. On soft ground the pole can sink which is a nuisance. Digging through odds and sods of gubbins I have found a ski pole basket. With a bit of faffing around it becomes a handy foot for the pole to sit on.
With ongoing computer difficulties, I have had to dig out my old, somewhat unreliable laptop. Sorting through stored documents I realised I still have a lot of my old writings. There is a temptation to begin again.
In the meantime maps are being perused. There is a rough outline of my next trip already planned. A lot hinges on cheap train tickets. Thus it will be another part of the Dales. No hardship there though. It will be a joy to be away.

Sunday 11 August 2013

Short walk

Tuesday saw me once more heading north. It was Appleby this time. Arriving early afternoon, no time was wasted in heading over to Dufton. Footpaths in that direction are quite abysmal and I arrived in the village hot and bothered. A quick visit to the tea shop for some much needed refreshments and then I was underway again. My goal for the afternoon was High Cup Nick.

A long, steady plod up, warm work. My actual aim was for Maize Beck Scar. A lovely spot for a wild camp. Arrived fairly late and was tired. The midges where out in force which was a tad tedious.

 Wednesday was another warm day, overcast at times though. There is a path marked on the map from the bridge at The Scar, however, it is a vague affair. Basically I picked my own way across to the second bridge which in turn links up with the main Pennine Way path.

Unfortunately I was having an off day. Nothing specific, just moving slow and unable to pick up any pace. Despite leaving quite early, time was running on by the time I made it down to Cow Green.

Pushing on down toward Middy Bank farm, I stopped to take stock of the situation. What to do? Carrying on to where I really wanted to be, would mean a long day and probably a late stop. Stop early and push on over Thursday and Friday would more than likely mean two fairly extensive days. There was nothing to prove, no hard and fast deadlines to meet. Mind, it was disappointing not to have done what I set out to do. Turning back a bit I found spot out of the way for the tent and pitched camp.

Thursday morning the midges where bad, swarms of them. Packing up was done in a hurry. With all previous plans scrapped, I now headed back up toward Cow Green. Then it was a wander on toward Maize beck. Doing a loop I came by Maize Beck Scar and camped. The tent was pitched in a slightly exposed position so that the strong breeze kept the midges at bay. The day had been overcast and grey but brightened up late afternoon.

During the night the wind rose and it began to rain. Soon the tent was being strongly buffeted and torrential rain hammered off the flysheet. Unfortunately I had to get out of the tent in a hurry a few times over the course of the night. Just another bout of ongoing illness. It meant getting very wet and cold which was unpleasant.
Friday saw my plans for the day, which involved heading over toward Great Rundale tarn,  abandoned. It was late morning before the weather cleared. Around midday I packed up and headed across High Cup plain and took a slow stroll back down to Dufton. Booked in to the youth hostel for the night.

Saturday was a walk back to Appleby with thin, misty rain drifting in. Not a very productive few days but it was good to get out.

Sunday 21 July 2013

Footloose in Dales

A week or two back I went for my six monthly appointment to see the Parkinson's specialist. So frustrating. Ten minutes in and out. Issues and concerns I wanted to raise where brushed aside. Medicines altered and changed once more. Next appointment in a further six months. One recommendation of note, and this was passed on to my GP. It was considered time for me to cease my hill walking. In particular my solo wanderings. My GP echoed these concerns. Fine, however, am I really expected to sit out the rest of my days in a small flat,. bored out of my mind; living in a cold and impersonal city?
It has been said, 'things seem to happen around Dawn.' This time I hit a major crisis. Under new rulings I now pay a nominal council tax. No real problem. Due to be away on the Monday, I did the payment on the Friday beforehand. Imagine my horror when the receipt came back with a couple  of extra noughts on it! Frantically I rang my bank. Unfortunately the payment had already gone through and it could not be blocked. To put it mildly, I was in panic state. This had left me heavily overdrawn, my bank account was now frozen, my card useless. It was Monday morning before I could contact the council office. Much frantic running about with paperwork and then glibly being informed that yes, a mistake had been made, however, it would take at least a week to sort out and nothing could be done beforehand.
What to do? Cash wise I had an emergency twenty pound note and some loose change in my purse, nothing else. Also, I was packed and ready to head north. The train tickets had already been purchased. Being cheap tickets they where none refundable. Maybe common sense would have said stay put and sort the mess out. Looking at the clock I could see that if I got a shift on there was a chance I may still catch the train. Laying aside rationality I legged it, catching said train with with little time to spare.
Many, many moons ago, before the time of you young whipper snappers who sometimes read this blog, the majority of us ordinary folks never had bank accounts. Possibly post office saving accounts. However, we had to make do with whatever cash we had. So, I was going to have to wing it.

Arriving at Garsdale I caught 'the Little White Bus' over to Hawes. By now it was late afternoon. Not having eaten since early morning, a cup of tea and some food was a necessity. Nipping in to a cafe, a quick peruse of the menu, a cheese sandwich and a cuppa the cheapest option, (watch those pennies girl!!) A quick change in to boots and it was a stroll up to Gayle. From there it was a case of keeping an eye on the map and heading up the hill. My first priority was water, there was a chance that higher up that there may be none. Footpaths led me over to Burtersett and it was there that I finally  managed to fill up with water. With the added weight of water in the pack it was a heavy load to be carrying up the bridleway leading out of the village. A slow, measured plod took me to high above Hawes. The ground being so dry it was easy to find a spot to camp on what would normally be boggy ground.
 Early Tuesday morning gave a hint of was to come for the rest of the day. At seven the tent was becoming uncomfortably warm. By eight I was underway. Firstly I followed the path over to the old Roman road, Cam High Road. A long, straight stony, dusty track. Squadrons of horseflies where out on patrol looking for breakfast and decided I would do nicely. Walking down to Bainbridge was straight forward. From there on though constant attention had to be paid to the map. The day was becoming hot, very. Map reading was not easy in the given conditions. For the next few miles it was footpaths across a series of fields. Firstly it was a pleasant walk along a path through shady woodland, along Brough Scar and then across to Cubeck. One drawback, flies, plagues of them. Not harmful, but the moment one stopped the beggars descended and it was darned annoying. A plod up the road to Thornton Rust. Here I managed find a lady in the village who offered to fill up my water container. An added litre and a half just to add to my all up weight. A vital requirement though. My fluid levels where constantly dropping in the blazing sun and oh my, it was hot. From the village there was tricky map reading required. There was little indication of where the footpaths went. Sign posts few and far between. No actual styles, instead, narrow, gated slots in the walls. A boisterous group of heifers escorted me across one field.

  A steep drop down to Gill beck and a stiffish pull back up to Flout Moor Lane, another  track. Across more fields, eye constantly on the map. By now I was wilting under the unrelenting heat. Coming across a field close to Thoralby, I threw myself down under a shady tree. Bother the flies, most bothersome! It was time to make  some decisions. My original intention had been to swing around by West Burton. Too far, I would have been pushing things to even attempt it. Haw Lane offered an alternative route, leading, as it did, above Bishopdale.

My main concern was water. The heatwave meant there was little to be found. The map indicated there was a chance of some further on, up by the Stake Road. A risk, but there was little option. A long, sweaty slog up the track, climbing ever upward, heat radiating off the stony surface of the track.
To compound the difficulties the track higher up suddenly gave way to a newly laid stone track. A most awful surface to walk on. By now I was wearied, drained and needed to stop soon. Stopping to drain the last of my water, I eased the rucksack on and slowly shuffled on with head hanging low, leaning more heavily on the trekking poles. To my surprise a fresh track came in from the left, again, heavily made up of stone. Not the bridleway marked on the map. My luck was in, I found the most delightful tiny little rill of cool fresh water. A gap in the wall, often used by the local sheep allowed me to find a spot for the tent. An impromptu shower from one of my water bladders cooled me down a tad. The day had been a long one. Some twelve miles plus and I was glad to stop.
Early Wednesday morning at around six thirty, I heard a quad bike coming along the track. A farmer shifting livestock to high pastures. As he returned back down the track I sort of braced, quite expecting him to stop and possibly have words. He passed on though and I breathed a sigh of relief. What amazed me was the amount of rabbits, there where multitudes of them. The day though went haywire somewhat rapidly. The newly laid track/stone road did not correspond to anything on the map. Following the track up further, it forked. According to the map there was right hand fork which was a track leading back over toward Flout moor. A large tracked digger parked up nearby offered evidence of the major work being carried out. Another newly carved out track bore off left and then right. Checked out but obviously a new track in the making. Sticking to the map it would appear the track led more or less straight on. A faint track led uphill, ending at a field gate. An ugly scar of a track could be seen snaking across the moorland. Heading over to it another track appeared to lead straight on. Once more, a dead ender. Following the stone road onward it turned in to car park area, or least a parking area for four fours that would bring up the grouse shooting parties. That was what all this track up grading was all about. Grouse shooting in the area was obviously big money! Out of curiosity I followed a faint track that bore off from the parking lot. Yikes! it led to something that looked more like a tank battleground. Shooting butts in all directions, hard stone standing places every which way. A labyrinth of stone laid tracks weaving off in all directions. What a mess, I shuddered and fled!. Another track led on, once more it was being worked on. Checking closely with the map, it at least headed in the right sort of direction. Following it up, I came to another gate. A track led off due right and downhill,. Not what I wanted.
Frustrated and not feeling good, (I had already taken four Imodium,) I decided to call it quits for the day. There was no point in getting in a tizz. Water was way back, after dumping the sack I head down, filled the water bladders and headed slowly back up the hill and around to the rucksack.   Flies, did I mention flies?   There where swarms of them. That and the rabbits, they ran riot everywhere.
Early Thursday morning dawned hot. Having a morning strip bath there was hardly any need for a towel. Getting dressed was a chore. The midges made sure I hurried things along though. Today the navigation came right. The heat though was oppressive. Even by mid morning the glaring sun was radiating off the surface of the trackway. Sheep lay sprawled out at ungainly angles, panting heavily, big soulful eyes gazing unfocused at  me. 'Do what you like with us, we don't care any more!!' Stepping carefully around them, I tried to avoid disturbing them. They never budged though. Despite taking more tablets I still had to make a couple of emergency stops. trying to keep my fluid levels up was essential. However, it was not long before I was down to less than half a litre. The Busk Lane track joined with the Gilbert lane track. Both permitted byways.  Eventually the track led down by Hell gap and Causeway Moss. A short bit of road walking. Tarmac melting made it sticky. It was then a footpath leading down to Buckden. It was marked up as a mile and a half. Despite leading downhill it was still hard going. A few startled glances came my way as I came in to the village. Probably because I was dishevelled, dusty, hot, sweaty and desperate for fluids. An elderly couple sitting outside a tea shop showed some concern and asked if I was ok. Quickly I reassured them I was fine. There was a village shop and I bought an ice cold drink and an ice cream and managed to get a water bladder filled. Apparently there had been official records of temperatures in the Dales hitting the thirties. Something I could readily believe. It was hotter than the heatwave Mike and I had experienced last year on the South Downs.

 The river Wharfe was very low. Its banks though, had some lovely, shade giving trees. Sitting under the gladsome shade, I had a spot of lunch. Although I felt disinclined to eat, I needed to get some  substance down me, just to keep going.  Studying the maps I perused the idea of following the Dales Way and heading around to Ribblesdale. perversely, maybe, I stuck to my intended route which went via Littondale. The bridleway that heads over to Litton climbs steadily out of the valley. Up past Redmire, the springs marked on the map, dry. Out in the open the relentless heat hammered down.

 Climbing higher, I really began to suffer. stopping often for a breath and a sip of water. Finally reaching the top, I was exhausted. My concern now was water. It was a disappointment to find Birks Tarn dry. Stashing the rucksack, I had to descend back down the hill a short way to where I had spotted a tiny seep of water trickling out of the ground. The water was actually flowing, so no problem there. The problem was that being such a wee trickle, getting it in to the water bladders was going to be awkward. It took some time but using my small, folding cup I managed to get enough water in the end. One snag was the sediment that was also scooped up. My bio degradable wash cloth acted as filter. Wemi wipes are very handy things to have in ones kit. Home for the night was next to the trig point. If there was even the faintest zephyr of a breeze I wanted it. The day had seen me pushing my limits and I felt drained. The upside was that there was no major wobblies!

Descending down to Litton on Friday morning, my legs felt heavy and a wee bitty wobbly on the descent. According to the map there was a post office in the village. Normally they have shop with them as well. The thought that maybe I could get another cold drink drove me on. It was disappointing to find that the post office had recently closed it and the shop went as well. The place was now a B&B. Thwarted from my cold drink, I headed back to the pub. Still closed but the door was open. The landlady was all kindness, most concerned for my well being. Soon I was sitting under a sun shade with a cold pint of orange juice, with ice cubes. All for fifty pence, sheer bliss.

Signs warned of the danger of crossing the ford over the river Skirfare after heavy rain. No chance today? A track and footpath led me over to Nether Hesleden.

  For a moment I was thrown by the footpath at the holiday homes. It went through a gate, across a well manicured lawn and back out another gate. A lovely camping spot though, tree offering welcome shade. A hot, slow plod up to the road. A white mini bus and land rover where parked there. (Mike, avert your eyes) There was a group of D.O.E. instructors keeping an eye on their charges. More importantly, they had water and I bummed a litre off them. Down the road a tad and then on to the bridleway that leads over to Foxup. There was no breeze, no shade, just heat and more heat. The Foxup road, led across Foxup moor and below Plover hill. Feeling fairly certain that the upper reaches of hull Pot gill may have water in it that is where I headed. Thankfully I was right. The tent was pitched on s a small flat space that obviously would be flooded in times of heavy rain. It was just out of sight of the footpaths that crossed lower down. Somewhat surprisingly the local sheep where actually paddling in the beck. Mad they may be but not so daft! Finding a convenient little pool I went and had a seat in the cool water myself, delicious! 

There was no rush on Saturday morning. A bee somehow managed to fall in to my early morning cuppa. Hooking her out she sat quivering on the edge of my spoon for a few moments before taking of in an unsteady flight. The sound of voices at six  indicated the three peaks legions where already on the march. For me though it was just a gentle stroll down to Horton. The trip had been a good one, but oh so difficult in the intense heat. Especially Thursday and Friday. Despite slapping on quantities of sunscreen I was still burnt in places. Insect bites I had by the score To be honest, I felt wearied and drained. It was time to be heading out.

Ambling down the track to Horton, I passed several folk heading up. Groups of two or three, some larger groups. As is the norm. I gave a smile and said 'Hi!' or 'Good morning' To my amazement I was largely ignored. One mixed group just looked at me as if I was some sort of freak. Maybe they  where not used to seeing a travel stained hiker just coming off the hill?  About the only people who responded where a group of teenage lasses doing their D.O.E That saddens me. Do we have new type of walker, one who drives to a designated area, does the proposed walk and nothing but that walk and then gets back in the car and drives home? No time spent just enjoying being out, taking time just to potter?

 A cup of tea and a bite to eat in the village. A treat and also I would not have anything to eat or drink until I got back in the evening. A quick change in to travel clothes in the loo and then a settle down until the train arrived. An added bonus, I still had change left over from my twenty pounds. Some forty miles covered, give or take a few.